Reviews in 200 Words

The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant

In Novel on May 4, 2009 at 1:55 pm

There’s something about the sound of truth: that small whisper-mantra that this really happened. Billed as a “novel based on a true story,” Bondurant traces the passed-down stories of his grandfather, Jack, and two granduncles, Forrest and Howard. Bondurant also uses Sherwood Anderson, to shift back and forth from 1928 and 1929 to 1935, when Anderson makes a trip to Franklin County, Virginia to write a magazine article about the brothers. Anderson’s role emphasizes telling and re-telling: the process of changing stories and history, and also the incestuous town—how much an outsider sticks out. Bondurant not only shows the ins and outs of running corn-whiskey—the violent lengths to which people went for the burning relief of the drink—but also how these brothers, and their town of cohorts grew from boys to men in a few short years. Bondurant’s language brings this dirt-poor town to life: a never ending battle of making do with what you had. A gut-rusted 1928 Ford truck, hoe-cakes, crispy chicken, birch beer and fire water—white lightning. Bondurant’s characters are creepy and sad; they bring a dizzy shutter when you return to your mantra: they’re real—they control the fear.

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